I can’t help but to feel two things while watching Tamako Market:
1. Hungry for mochi.
Truth is, Tamako Market right now is exactly constructed like mochi. By “like mochi” I mean its mouth feel. Now to be specific, there are a wide variety of mochi-type foods out there, but in this Tamako Market, we’re constantly shown the mame mochi, which is, from what I can gather, one of the region’s famous combination. Mame mochi is kind of like a daifuku, except instead of a filling you mix in whole beans in the thing. Well, I certainly have never seen mochi like this anywhere other than stuff from Kyoto, although I am still a novice about this food. I mean I didn’t even know what chikara udon (udon topped with mochi, usually fried) was until I looked it up–it sounds like it could be pretty good! As much as I like mochi I sure am not very knowledgeable about the Japanese varieties, I probably should fix that.
I think in order to understand the nature of rice-eating in Japan, you really have to know mochi and its large varieties in Japan. I think they go above and beyond almost any other rice-as-a-main-staple country in terms of the weird thing they do with it. Like, what the hell is this?
It’s kind of the subtle yet super-pervasive thing about certain aspect of Japanese life, I gather. In some ways that really is what Tamako Market feels like to me. It’s enjoyable, white rice-product. Except the bird.
2. Feel Excalibur.
By Excalibur I mean the Legend That Began in the 12th Century. By that I mean the joke in Soul Eater in which this…perhaps insufferable creature of mystery (CV: Takehito Koyasu) but also the embodiment of a great power. And by great power I mean both his ability to beat the bad guys and his ability to fascinate and irritate, perhaps in equal measures.
Dera is like the black beans in the mame mochi. Dera gives it texture, flavor, and excitement. He can drive the plot to unpredictable places, introduce new characters and break up the monotone, everyday life.
It’s more than just filling and flavor, I think. Let’s look at the daifuku. Daifuku can be had anywhere these days, from Korea to China and beyond. I can go to my local H-mart and get it. The daifuku only a hop away from what the west calls “mochi ice cream” which is served in half of the Asian restaurants I frequent in NY. It’s a hit with the world. And a daifuku, in its basic configuration, is mochi with anko paste as a filling.
Sorry Anko, you’re great but Dera is better–or maybe not better, but more interesting because it’s unique. The anime community’s had Ankori Pasta Rice since when Momotato still blogged the world. It’s been done before, and it will continue in the future. We’ve had so many cute-girls-do-life shows. Now we have a cute-girls-do-life-with-a-talking-bird anime. It’s a safe twist, like tasty black beans mixed in mochi. But it’s a different taste; a taste closer to possibly my favorite K-ON song:
You make my heart throb, it may be love, I scurry
I can’t stop this hungry sensation and get dizzy
A piping hot plate of curry
Motivate me with a single spoon of spice
I don’t want mild, I want medium spice today
It’s an adult’s flavor
Meat, vegetables, and a secret hidden flavor
It’s the greedy loving heart of a growing girl
I love you!
Bubbling boiled curry
Let me experience two spoons of spice
But that’s my limit, it’s too spicy…I can’t
Shocked, shocked, shocked
Oh no no no no no no no no no no
A bit of curry and plenty of rice
Well, curry is probably a league above anko or mame but it’s too much for a comfortable show like Tamako Market.
You still might wonder how I get Excalibur vibes from Dera. I don’t even know, honestly, but I like both characters at this point and I think there is something faux-gentlemanly about the two creatures that is both endearing and sickening. It’s that duality which gives a distinct flavor to this show–not quite like spicy curry, not as extreme as bitter melon, but it is perhaps a little sweet and sour? I think as far as something like that goes, Dera is rather mild and, perhaps most importantly, amusing. At least he makes sense, and that goes a very long way.
But that’s just me. I’m sure plenty of people prefer Tamako Market like vanilla ice cream made with LN, bird-free. There’s a great comfort to biting into a solid, but appropriately soft chunk of mochi in which I think is partly conferred by the show in terms of its feelings, but I don’t know if one could build an interesting story with only that. A little bit of magic here go a long way.